I flew into SFO on Monday night – how am I halfway through my trip already?! Being home hasn’t exactly been relaxing, as I try to catch up on all the admin and other things I neglected during the semester, but escaping NYC in itself has eased my stress levels dramatically. I wish I had another week or two to recuperate from the four months of craziness, but I guess six days will have to suffice.

I didn’t realize just how much I missed Santa Cruz until my run in Nisene Marks yesterday. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, then you know those redwoods are my running haven. It’s where I go when I need to calm my mind (or occasionally, have an adventure).

It was a gorgeous day – a bit warm for running in the sun, but in the shade of the trees, perfectly cool with a slight breeze. I missed running in Nisene – the peacefulness of the forrest, the sounds of the babbling creek and the birds chirping, the smell of the redwoods, the feeling of those trails under my feet, even those painful, never-ending climbs towards the summit! It felt good to be back in my running home – like no time had passed at all and I was right where I belonged, as if I were seeing an old friend.

And yet more than four months have passed and so much has happened! The last time I ran in Nisene was the day before I moved to NYC  to begin my first semester at NYU. It was my time to say goodbye to a place that had supported me through a challenging but successful transition from London to NYC. It’s where I went to think, to brainstorm, to zone out, to freak out – it’s even where I found out that I had been accepted to NYU (back at the car post-run). Halfway through that last run in January, I stopped for a few minutes to talk to the trees. I know, slightly crazy (or just Santa Cruz), but I was nervous and excited for so much change, and sad to be leaving California. I wanted to vocalize my goals, as well as my gratitude, and it was the most appropriate time and place to do so.

Thus, it felt really good to return to one of my favorite places in the world yesterday, having accomplished exactly what I set out to do, and celebrate with the trees. I took a moment to stop, soak up my surroundings and express feelings of relief, pride, and once again gratitude, mostly in my head but a few words out loud too (thankfully no one was around). I worked hard but it all paid off. Was it worth all the stress? Probably not – but I’m working on worrying less and slowly I’m achieving more balance in my life. The year ahead is very intimidating, particularly the remainder of 2012, but that moment of reflection gave me faith that I will prevail!

Yesterday was a bit soon to do a longish run after the Brooklyn Half, but it was so beautiful in the redwoods that I just couldn’t stop at 5 or 6 miles. The further I ran, the more I wanted to continue running. I ended up doing one of my favorite shorter loops (around 8.75M), including the first part of the Loma Prieta Grade trail, then veering to the right down to Buddha bridge (had to say hello to the Buddha!) and back up to the Fire Road to the earthquake epicenter and back. My hamstring wasn’t hurting at all and I felt pretty strong overall. Here are my garmin details.

I stopped before the huge, long climb to the summit – however I did hit a few hills, which served as a good reminder that I really need to start hill training again. Sorry, but Central Park just doesn’t cut it – not when you’re going to run a crazy 16M trail race in Colorado that starts at 6,700 ft of elevation and gains 4,500 ft! Think my goal for that race definitely is JUST FINISH (and don’t die). Actually, that should become my motto for the rest of the year, generally.

Chicago marathon training officially starts in just a few weeks. That means that it’s time to begin ramping up my base mileage and easing back into speedwork, tempo and marathon pace training. I really hope my hamstring will cooperate!

Today is a rest day and I just devoured a huge stack of my Dad’s amazing banana pancakes. My parents and I are driving up to Davenport today to see if there are any whales and take in the beautiful views. I haven’t been there in ages. We had planned a San Francisco trip tomorrow before seeing my sister and little E in the East Bay but think I’ve had my share of cities – more time in Santa Cruz, with the redwoods and my local beach, is what I really need! That and some quality family time. I wish I didn’t have to leave…but I will get back here permanently, someday.